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I wish I’d written… Siobhán Parkinson on a book would make a stone doorstep weep …

Children often tell me they like sad books. Perhaps they enjoy a tear-jerker in the same way they enjoy being scared by a ghost story, but there is much, much more to A Monster Calls than the fact that it would make a stone doorstep weep.

The mother of Conor, the boy in the story, is dying of cancer. We are never told either that she has cancer or that it is terminal, but from about a third of the way in, we know. We just do. Conor doesn’t know, however, and what is most impressive about this heartbreaking tour de force of a book

is how the dying woman leads him, and the author leads us, to accept the truth and to let her go, so that on the last page, with Conor, we hold her in our arms and give her permission to breathe her last. The monster of the title is both the illness and a querulous storytelling yew tree that comes to Conor at night and gradually compels him to recognize the truth.

A book that will be of immense value for bereaved children, A Monster Calls is about the human condition itself, but it does not contain a single didactic syllable.

A Monster Calls (978 1 4063 1152 5) by Patrick Ness is published by Walker at £12.99. A paperback edition (978 1 4063 3651 1) will be published in October at £6.99. Siobhán Parkinson is Irish Children’s Literature Laureate. Her latest book Bruised (978 1 4449 0359 1), a novel for young teenagers, is published by Hodder at £6.99.

Good Reads White Crow

Marcus Sedgwick, Orion, 978 1 4440 0149 5, £6.99 pbk

White Crow is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I thought it was beautifully written but at times I found the language of the man in the 18th century a little difficult to read but I thought Marcus Sedgwick got into the head of two teenage girls extremely well - the characters were very convincing, even though they had a strange relationship. I think the best part of the book is that it opens up different aspects and ideas of life after death. I was very unsure of what I believed about it but it’s really got me thinking in a whole new way about the theory. I would recommend this book to anyone no matter what genre they like. (I also really enjoyed meeting the author when we went on a Carnegie trip to another school where he was talking).

Lily Millar

Prisoner of the Inquisition

Theresa Breslin, Corgi, 978 0 5525 6074 0, £6.99 pbk

I very much enjoyed Prisoner of the Inquisition. I was keen to read it as I have read and loved other books by Theresa Breslin. It was a very emotional book - I cried at the end and at other points throughout. It is written in first person but the narrative swaps between two equally

Lily Millar

Chosen by Year 8 and 9 (13 year-old) pupils from the Carnegie Shadowing Group, Fortismere School. Muswell Hill, London.

ended up having the time of your life - and all that cake... Shakira Dyer

Out of Shadows

Jason Wallace, Andersen Press, 978 1 8493 9048 4, £6.99 pbk

Shakira Dyer Benjamin Gardner Hannah Arnaud strong characters; at

beginning and the end it is in the third person - giving an overview rather than a personal view. The twists throughout keep you guessing, you never know what is going to happen next, and that means that it is very hard to put down. There is an introduction at the beginning which I strongly advise you read otherwise you might be slightly confused by the history. The first couple of paragraphs are the same as the first couple of paragraphs of the last chapter completing a circle and tying all the ends together. The ending again is so unexpected. You think you know what’s going to happen and you’re nearly right yet it is a traditional ending turned on its head. A brilliant book. Hannah Arnaud

18 Books for Keeps No.189 July 2011 Caitlin Napleton the Monsters of Men

Patrick Ness, Walker Books, 978 1 4063 2612 3, £7.99 pbk

I’m halfway through this huge, wonderful book and I LOVE IT! Readers: don’t be put off by its size, or the fact that it’s the last book of the ‘Chaos Walking’ series and you haven’t read any of them (ditto!). I didn‘t really understand it either in the first few pages. Since you are expected to already know all the characters (ie, Mayor Prentiss, the bad President; Viola, Todd’s best friend; Todd, the main character you meet at the start of the book), I found it like going into a party that had been on for three days and you just stepped in on the third day and didn’t know anyone or what was going on. But as you decided to stay at that party you

Out of Shadows is an interesting book that takes an almost sympathetic view to racism, because most of the main characters are racist. It reads very fast and punchy and eggs you on to read more until you finish it. It doesn’t require much knowledge about Zimbabwe/Rhodesia to understand and it does certainly makes you think of the morality of actions and the motif of a question keeps popping up all the way through the book. Overall, a good fast-paced book that’s hard to put down. Benjamin Gardner

A Bride’s Farewell

Meg Rosoff, Puffin, 978 0 1413 2340 4, £6.99 pbk

In this book, a young farm girl named Pell runs away on the day of her wedding, and soon events start to unfold, showing more about the past and future of her family. I found this book surprisingly a good read and enjoyed it. This has not been my favourite book, but it certainly has not been the worst. A fun read that gets your blood pumping and I would highly recommend it.

Caitlin Napleton

Thanks to Gill Ward, Senior Librarian.

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